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Align Your Assignment With God
Your assignment is not the assignment of everyone else. Once I learned what those nine words truly meant, my focus on life changed. Of course, I have been told that God gives His toughest battles to His strongest warriors, but that memo didn’t include details of when the battles would end. Instead of sticking my chest out during my victories and hanging my head during the moments of defeat, I’ve decided to learn from each circumstance, and by doing so, I am prepared for the next battle with each new day.
The best advice I have ever given myself is to be satisfied in my attempts to be better. When I first launched Huami Magazine, I was presented with a situation that adversely impacted the quality of my relatively new publication. I was frustrated, but I also knew what had occurred and why it happened. The idea of quitting never came into my mind, even while I sat motionless, staring at the balled-up copy in reference. I didn’t know then, but God was preparing me for something greater.
In November of this year, we will begin our seventeenthanniversary celebration of the birth of Huami Magazine. When I think about all of the layouts, the photo shoots, the interviews, and the distributions that have taken place, all I can say is God has been faithful and continues to keep His promise.
Had I given up in the beginning, the stories and testimonies of countless individuals may have never been published. Had I given in to the pressure of operating in the unknown, my mother would have never been able to mail magazines to her friends. Had I not decided to pour everything I have in me into producing something my community would celebrate, the hope that others have in God doing a great work for them may not exist.
All of my assignments have come with a lot of responsibility. What is more interesting is that the same set of instructions has accompanied them all: to seek God first and operate according to His plans. My assignment is not everyone else’s, and I know everything I desire is connected to how it aligns with God’s plan. Learn your assignment and align it with God. He will handle the rest for you.
Her mission is to help foster kids find ways to succeed in life, and beyond their circumstances.
After serving his country, and serving the Memphis Police Department, he has chosen to spend the rest of his life serving youth. Learn more his journey and career.
more about what their mission and plans are for their community.
Flourish Church Opens in the City of Gary
A Northwest Indiana Church Dedicated To Revitalizing The City
Flourish Church opened its door to its congregation and the city of Gary earlier this year with the mission to revitalize the city and restore the community. Former congregation and pastor of Bethel Church Gary campus, Dexter Harris, went independent from the multi-campus church and brought a new church by the name of Flourish to the city of Gary, which is located at 3935 Cleveland St.
With a new church comes a new vision. Harris says that he doesn’t want to be another church just dedicated to sermons or Sunday mornings. As a person who has always been dedicated to outreach, he desires to tie the church directly to the community. Harris sees the church as a vessel to serve the people and the needs of the community by ensuring that resources are provided for businesses to be developed, entrepreneurs to be successful and people to flourish.
“I’m hoping that Flourish can open its building and resources in a way that galvanizes networks, people and resources to revitalize Gary, Indiana and see it flourish again,” said Harris.
Harris wants to do ministry differently by actively getting to know members of the community and serving them in a way that is beneficial to their growth and success. As a racially diverse congregation, Flourish has connections throughout Northwest Indiana and has leveraged those connections to build a vast amount of support. With these connections, they have been able to give back to members and businesses within the community.
“We are committed to working together with our neighbors all over NWI in order to see our community experience wholeness not only spiritually but also mentally, physically, financially, relationally and systemically,” said Hannah Berridge, Flourish Church Board member.
Thus far, Flourish has partnered with Lighthouse Charter School to restore their courtyard, donated offerings to a local church in need, hosted block parties and community clean-ups, partnered with the City of Gary to host Winter Wonderland this past winter, provided ring doorbells to those in need and hosted a Juneteenth event.
In October, Flourish will donate its offering to Habitat for Humanity to increase home ownership in Gary. In addition to these amazing partnerships, Flourish makes it a priority to conduct church outside of the building and within the community. This summer, they have maintained a “Jesus at da Beach” series where the church service has congregated and taken place at Marquette Park Beach.
Overall, Flourish believes that it is the responsibility of the church to help people who are in need and to help shape the community in Gary, Indiana, so that everyone feels safe, welcome and able to thrive.
For more information about Flourish Church, please visit their website.
Young Male Mentoring Program Aims To Lead Youth To PurposeBy Terry L. Watson
The Purposed Man Mentoring Group (TPM) is currently seeking to partner with individual and corporate sponsors to assist with making our upcoming “KICKIN IT” Sneaker Campaign 2023 a success.
TPM is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit organization based in Greensboro, NC. Executive Director, Terry Watson, says, “Our mission is to meet the needs and concerns of young males while assisting them with becoming positive citizens through positive role modeling and hands-on activities. We also aim to provide them with guidance and assistance to develop great males of purpose.”
Terry also shares, “We strongly believe in the strength of individual and community empowerment through community building, community reinvestment, and peerto-peer networking and connections.”
TPM is excited to host its first sneaker giveaway, designed for ten young males ages 8 to 13. The sneakers will be awarded to those that demonstrate a need. Each participant must submit a completed application to be considered for the awards. Those accepted participants will be awarded a shoe voucher for $150.
TPM is also looking for sponsorships and donations for the Kickin It Sneaker Campaign that will allow us to purchase T-Shirts, food, and supplies for the anticipated awards ceremony scheduled for October 22, 2023. At this event, the participants will be entertained by a guest speaker and receive other empowering information.
Any donations are tax deductible and are greatly appreciated. Donations can be made by visiting their website.
JohnsonBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Nycole Johnson
So many words and adjectives can describe Nycole Johnson. Imaginative, inventive, and servant are appropriate, yet there is more to her story. First and most importantly, she is a lover of God and professes that she wouldn’t be where she is today without God.
The East Chicago, IN, native and current Indianapolis is the youngest of three sisters of her mother’s children and the youngest of seven children of her father’s. Her adult son, Xavyon, is her only child, and the village she relies on for support consists of many family and friends.
At the age of 18, Nycole moved to Indianapolis to attend IUPUI. She initially pursued a degree in communication but was intrigued by the world of Technology and what it had to offer. She would eventually pivot and change her major and become the first African American female to obtain an Associate’s Degree in New Media. Next, she got her Bachelor’s degree in General Studies and would later work for the Indianapolis Urban League as their IT Coordinator. While there, she started an initiative to encourage young minority females to pursue careers in various areas of Technology and entrepreneurship and led high schoolers in programming to assist with closing the digital divide within their communities. To date, she has provided instruction and mentorship to over 300 youth and countless others.
Everything Nycole had accomplished up to then was already impressive. Still, there was more for her to do.
Nycole returned to school and obtained her Masters in Business and Administration, focusing on Leadership Development from Indiana Wesleyan University. She has worked in IT for over 25 years for the profit and nonprofit sectors.
Today, Nycole owns Rose of Sharon All Naturals LLC (ROS), a health and wellness e-commerce store. Rose of Sharon All Naturals is named after her late mother, who pushed Nycole to help make the world a better place. “I learned early on as a child that making a difference in my community was imperative. My mother taught me what it truly meant to give back and stand up for what was right,” she says.
Her company offers a variety of sea moss and functional mushroom-based products, some being consumable and others intended to be applied to the skin. “My products are designed for individuals seeking alternative methods to experience healthier lifestyles. They are intended for those who seek natural, life-changing results minus the artificial preservatives and colors. They are primarily vegan-based, but the face mask uses raw honey,” Nycole explains.
With Rose of Sharon All Naturals, there is something for everyone. “We have six Sea Moss flavored gels that are a true delight for your taste buds. The flavors are pineapple, strawberry, peach, green apple, not your ordinary lime, and original. Not only are they delicious, but they are packed with the incredible nutritional benefits of sea moss. Sea moss is known to boost immunity, improve digestion, promote healthy skin and nails, and much more,” she says.
Nycole also has four sea moss splash drinks. Made with coconut water and infused with the delightful flavors of strawberry lemon, peach mango, watermelon, and pineapple, these drinks are the perfect way to quench someone’s thirst. Not only do they taste amazing, but they are also rich in essential vitamins and minerals to keep her clients energized throughout the day.
For those looking for a quick and invigorating health shot, Nycole offers pineapple ginger sea moss shots to boost their wellness journey. “These shots are loaded with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and immune-boosting benefits and combine the power of sea moss, fresh cold-pressed ginger, pineapple, lemon, aloe, and coconut water. Say goodbye to fatigue and hello to a revitalized body,” Nycole says.
The Chaga Tea is a delightful blend that tastes like sweet peach tea and comes in a plain variant, and the Lion’s Mane Lavender Tea with a hint of lavender. This unique blend combines the brain-boosting benefits of lions’ mane mushrooms with lavender’s anti-inflammatory yet calming properties.
With her skincare line, Nycoles offers a sea moss face mask, of which she describes as a powerhouse combination of sea moss, aloe, and raw honey, specifically designed to tackle acne, dry skin, and problem skin. This face mask is a natural and effective solution to achieve clearer and healthier-looking skin.
There is the Sea Moss Body Butter, available in four delightful scents: Baby Powder, Lavender, Mango, and Plain. There is also the ROS’s Pain Kicker cream. This unique formula combines sea moss with essential oils, which aims to relieve minor inflammation and pain.
I learned early on as a child that making a difference in my community was imperative. My mother taught me what it truly meant to give back and stand up for what was right.”
Nycole says the vision for her company came from her stumbling on the ideal while trying to find alternative ways to cope with some issues she was dealing with. These were pre-covid conditions, heavy weight gain, loss of hair, and much physical pain resulting from a car accident in 2013. “I tried many western world medical remedies that did nothing but made me feel worse. Someone recommended sea moss, and I initially hesitated to try it. I eventually accepted the challenge but under one condition: I would have to tolerate the taste easily. I figured out a way to gain the wonderful benefits of sea moss and made sure it was naturally flavored.,” she said. The word quickly spread among Nycole’s family and friends about the transformation of her weight loss and improved health, and requests began to pour in for her sea moss. This is how Rose of Sharon All Naturals was born.
Nycole says what she loves most about her company is seeing the surprising look once someone tries her sea moss for the first time. She also appreciates the feedback and testimonials from her clients.
The journey of an entrepreneur can be very challenging. However, Nycole is a “Solopreneur,” which makes her business experience even more daunting. She shares, ‘I realize I can’t be everything to everybody at all times. I am not an expert in every aspect of what my business needs. Though I do most of it myself, I still have to contract certain aspects of the business needs, such as social media and marketing tasks, finance, and accounting. I also have a few mentors who offer sound advice and valuable resources.”
Funding has also posed a challenge for Nycole with her business. She has relied on her personal funds to build her brand without seeking assistance from any other source. Fortunately, she applied for grants and was awarded one earlier this year. “That funding has been a tremendous blessing and supported my business as sales continue to increase.”
As her future happens for Nycole, she is positioning her brand to be very successful on all stages. She shares, “ROS is steadily gaining momentum and is on track to be a go-to company for wellness needs. We are working hard to improve our brand and product offerings. Currently, we are working on rebranding, styling, launching a new name to trademark, and enhancing products. ROS will be known for its healthy and great-tasting natural sea moss and for being a wellness brand.:
Please visit their website to learn more about Rose of Sharon All Naturals.
Victoria HartBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Victoria Hart
According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, the definition of a doula is a person trained to provide advice, information, emotional support, and physical comfort to a mother before, during, and just after childbirth. This definition accurately describes Victoria Hart.
The Mississippi Gulfport resident owns Doula & Nanny, LLC. Her company offers various levels of support, such as physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. With her nanny services, Victoria provided exceptional childcare as well. “My services are designed for all but mainly for those who need that extra hand,” she shares.
At just 27, Victoria has already accomplished a lot. She has enjoyed four years of marriage with her husband, Jarell, and besides being an aspiring entrepreneur, she has a bachelor’s degree in Natural Science. Even more, Victoria was on the road to obtaining her BSN but God said otherwise. More touching is how she describes motherhood. “I am an Angel Mom to five Angel Babies. My time will come when God says that I am ready.”
Victoria launched her business in October 2021 after Victoria’s cousin, who was expecting her second child, asked her to be her doula. “My cousin’s first birth experience was the opposite of how she planned it. She researched that having a doula by her side might empower her to take control of her birth. Once she asked me, I immediately fell in love with everything a doula stands for. In January 2022, her VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) was extremely successful. That experience hugely impacted my doula business, and as a result, it flourished. Currently, I have 25 Doula Babies,” she says.
While Victoria started her nanny business in April 2022, she has served as a nanny since she was 19. “It was basically a summer job while on break from college. However, I have always loved watching kids, even as a kid myself,” she says. Victoria now has 45 “Nanny Babies”.
When asked what inspires her the most about her business, Victoria shared that, regarding being a doula, seeing how black women were mistreated during pregnancy and even childbirth made her realize how much of an impact she could make in their lives. “I have been discriminated against in the medical field concerning infertility issues, so I know firsthand what that can feel like.” In response to the same question pertaining to being a nanny, she says, “In this day and age, it is hard to trust people with your kids because you never know their true intentions. With me, on the other hand, my intentions are pure from the start, and my parents can tell. I desire to be the extra help they need when they cannot find it anywhere else.”
Victoria says she really loves what she does. She shares that hearing how her attendance during the birthing experience or watching her client’s children changed their lives for the better makes it all worth it. “I just do what I love. I have been told numerous times that I inspire other people to follow their passions. The fact that I followed my passion and can help families in need and still pay my bills is all that I need.”
Growing both businesses has proven to be a little challenging, but fortunately for Victoria, the assistance of social media has helped in many ways. Additionally, finding ways to fund her businesses has been a learning experience. Victoria says she wished she had obtained funding before jumping into entrepreneurship. “I just jumped in, head and HART first, no questions asked,” she says.
In the future, Victoria hopes to open a birthing center in her area. Currently, there isn’t one, and she says doctors are afraid to open one due to liability issues. She also hopes to open a postpartum care center to provide care for the first few weeks after birth, which can sometimes be rough with the transition into being a newborn mom. Victoria has plans in the works for a daycare center with afterhour options.h
Brown Sugar Baking CompanyBy Terry L. Watson
Her sweetness is as infectious as her smile, and her cookies aren’t too bad either.
Nickie Davis’s life has consisted of dreams, resilience, and creativity. Currently residing in Huntsville, AL, Nickie was born in Arizona but raised by a single mom in Georgia. From an early age, she has harbored an insatiable passion for learning. Her determination to rise above her circumstances, setbacks, and obstacles helped her escape the small-town box. She wanted more, and that drive still exists with her today.
At 28, Nickie owns Brown Sugar Baking, a cottage law licensed home bakery nestled in Harvest, AL. Her company offers a delightful spectrum of scratch-made delicacies, including various cookies— from drop cookies to custom-decorated masterpieces like cinnamon rolls, cakes, brownies, and blondies. “Traditional flavors tug at my heartstrings. They’re my link to those who walked before me,” she says. Take her pound cakes, for example. The recipe is a hushed family secret passed down from her great-grandmother. Then there’s her chocolate chip cookies, jazzed up with a hint of cinnamon and packed with hand-pressed chocolate chips. Nickie says she finds her greatest joy when combining popular flavors with unlikely sweets. A current customer favorite is her Strawberry Lemonade Cinnamon Roll. It’s a flakey strawberry dough with crushed lemon Oreos, harmonized by a drizzle of lemon glaze.
Nickie and Brown Sugar Baking are often spotted at vending events and community markets. Not in the Harvest area, no problem. Her online ordering option is here to help; however, due to local laws, some restrictions may apply. Additionally, she teaches cookie decorating classes and shares her love for the art with others. “I find joy in guiding others as they unleash their creativity on delectable canvases to create edible masterpieces,” Nickie says.
Without question, Nickie knows a lot about baking; still, she says it’s not just about the treats; it’s about crafting experiences that transport you to moments of indulgence and delight. Growing up, she always baked treats for her friends, earning her the affectionate nickname ‘Nickie Crocker’. She quickly became the go-to person for bake sales in high school. Nickie’s love for baking would continue to follow her throughout life.
She officially started Brown Sugar Baking in February 2022, but the roots of her business venture stretch back through the generations of Nickie’s family’s baking legacy. She shares, “Baking has been in my blood for as long as I can remember. My grandmother’s locally famous cakes captivated my imagination as a child. I was fortunate to learn from her, and she passed down the knowledge acquired from her mother as we spent numerous hours in the kitchen. The seeds of my baking journey were sown by my mother, who had a passion for baking that she had yet to fully pursue. Her encouragement and the rich heritage of family recipes fueled my desire to create and share culinary delights.”
“Traditional flavors tug at my heartstrings. They’re my link to those who walked before me.”Photos Provided by Nickie Davis
Having been taught by the best, the challenge of creating a business from it all would be her next challenge. Nickie says that during the COVID-19 pandemic, like many others, she found herself limited by what she could do. While giving birth to two children, she also spent a lot of time baking. During her second pregnancy, she developed an intense craving for blueberry muffins. After recovering from a traumatic cesarean, she decided to make her own scratch-made version of them. This pursuit quickly evolved into a two-week-long fascination with various muffin recipes. She shared her creations with friends, family, and her husband’s coworkers, and they welcomed them with open arms and eager taste buds. As the world slowly reopened, encouragement from those who tasted her creations nudged her towards a new path. With a limited menu and even fewer orders, Brown Sugar Baking came to life.
Choosing a name for a new business can be difficult. As for Nickie, she says it was important for her to represent not just the products she offers but also the essence of the experience. “I wanted the name to honor my black heritage while echoing my personality. So, I decided on Brown Sugar Baking. Brown Sugar Baking encompasses both who I am and what I aspire to convey through my baked creations. It’s a name that resonates with the sweetness, warmth, and hospitality. When you indulge in Brown Sugar Baking, you savor a slice of my journey, heritage, and commitment to bringing sweetness to life.”
Art and creativity have always been a part of Nickie’s life. She began as a percussionist in the sixth grade, jumping into theater and marching band soon after. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science from Auburn University. In 2023, she was nominated for the Queenpreneur’s Plan Dare2Dream Award in the Culinary Arts category, a recognition of her innovation in the kitchen, work as a black female entrepreneur, and involvement in her community.
When asked what she loves most about what she does, Nickie’s response aligns with her love for serving others. “Brown Sugar Baking isn’t just about culinary artistry—it’s a celebration of community and connection and a heartfelt invitation to savor the flavor of life’s sweetest moments. I don’t create these delights solely for financial gain; it’s a genuine love language wrapped in care that encapsulates my spirit, values, and dedication to crafting joy-filled experiences through the art of baking,” she says.
Nickie shares she draws inspiration from the constant learning that takes place while running her business and the connections she is able to make with her clients. “Witnessing the smiles, hearing stories, and sharing moments with people who enjoy my creations brings an immeasurable sense of fulfillment and a constant reminder that I’m walking in my purpose,” she shared. Additionally, Nickie is inspired by her family and the opportunity she has to encourage others to chase their dreams, take leaps of faith, and believe in themselves.
While most business owners face various challenges, Nickie has produced positives from those she’s encountered. “Dealing with ADHD, depression, and anxiety has been a rollercoaster. To keep my energy and spirits up, I take regular baking breaks, connect with my family, and enjoy the small moments that recharge me. I’ve also taken proactive steps like therapy and medication, which have allowed me to thrive. Honestly, having a neurodivergent brain is my superpower. It allows me to harness my curiosity and channel it creatively into the culinary realm,” she says. Nickie is also a stay-at-home mom to two rambunctious boys just over a year apart, one of whom has autism. This experience, she says, is a dynamic that requires her to wear many hats.
Brown Sugar Baking has brought Nickie many joys, and she shares the only thing she would change about her journey is to start sooner than she did. “At the beginning, I was sure my path led to becoming a veterinarian; it was a dream I had since childhood. To me, any deviation from that goal was a form of failure, so I didn’t allow myself the opportunity to explore other avenues. I want others to know that shifting your focus and deviating from the plan isn’t a sign of failure. It signifies evolving, maturing, and discovering what truly matters to you. Also, don’t wait for the perfect moment—just start. Your journey will unfold in its unique way. Perfection isn’t a prerequisite for starting something meaningful.”
What does the future look like for Nickie and Brown Sugar Baking? She shares she is embarking on a slight pivot with the business, fine-tuning her ideas to determine the best direction. “Slowly but surely, I’m wading into the world of catering and crafting delightful party treats. My clients have expressed interest for a while, and I’m preparing to take the plunge.” Additionally, online classes are also on the horizon. “With each step, my goal is to keep embracing change and innovation, all while staying true to the heart and soul of Brown Sugar Baking,” Nickie said.
To learn more about Brown Sugar Baking, please visit their website.
Great Leaders Create More Leaders, Not Followers
Information and Photos
Provided by Yalik’s Kid Committee
On June 24, 2023, Yalik’s African American Art & Cultural Movement (YAAACM) installed its first board of young leaders, the Yalik’s Kid Committee (YKC).
It was a dream come true; a group of phenomenal kids to serve as brand ambassadors for YAAACM, as well as community leaders. Founders share they are very excited to share all of the things YAAACM has planned for the High Point, NC, community and their fellow peers and participants of this program.
“Yalik’s Kid Committee is making history. Not only are they one of the first mentored groups of young leaders with an eleven-yearold Vice-Chair, but they are also learning history, building history, and inspiring their peers to be a part of this history,” founder, Phyllis Bridges says. “YKC is organizing events that support their peers. They know all too well what it means sometimes to be emotionally disconnected. Even more, they bring their own stories to the table and solicit the resources to help their fellow youth heal, cope, and soar.”
The visions and dreams of this group of future leaders are fueled by fundraisers that will elevate High Point’s rich history, such as the rehabilitation of the home of the legendary John Coltrane. This is planned, along with a historical balloon launch and an epic original comic book highlighting two board members headed to study abroad in Greece.
The excitement doesn’t stop there; The schedule for 2024 is going to be amazing. YKC plans to host events that expose fellow youth to excellence, history, adventure, culture, and activities that elevate the entire community. “This is well-rounded leadership at its best. First, we reach out, and then we reach up,” Phyllis says.
Yalik’s Kid CommitteeAlianna Snowden Vice-Chair Sophia Vaughn Secretary Dashawn Ervin Chair Josiah Beatty Treasurer
Memphis Shelby Police Activities League “A Little Can Go A Long Way”By Monica Montgomery Photos Provided by Craig Littles
Over the years, stories of youth growing up in crimeinfested areas have become increasingly common. Craig Littles, a military veteran and former law enforcement officer from North Memphis, Tennessee, has a similar story. But instead of giving in to the pull of the role models in his community, Mr. Littles took a different path with the help of his mother and sports coaches. Grateful for the opportunities and help he was blessed to have, Craig has built a community that helps kids like him find a different path. Today, he is the founder and Executive Director of the Sheriffs and Police Activities Leagues. The Memphis Shelby Police Activity League, or PAL, has been a life-altering organization for the youth of North Memphis for over thirty years.
In addition to being the founder of the Memphis Shelby County PAL, Craig is the National PAL Vice President. Nationally, PAL serves 1.5 million youth, over three hundred chapters, and seven international chapters. Locally, Memphis PALs serve over two thousand youth annually.
Craig’s passion for being an advocate and resource for the youth in his community comes from a deep sense of gratitude and respect for God and those people he believes God sent to help him beat the odds.
“Growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Memphis, my role models were gang bangers and dope dealers,” Craig explains. “I started this program thirty years ago to be a better role model than our kids see in the community every day.”
Craig, a single parent to three, now adult children understand the importance of good examples outside and in the home. He and his brother, John Littles were raised by a single mother, Carolyn Willis who made sure they were surrounded by strong male mentors who could give them good guidance and sound advice when needed. “My brother and I are a year apart, and our mother ensured we were always involved in something positive. We were really good at sports, so that’s where we focused our energy,” Craig shares. “It made our mother happy because it kept us busy, in school, and away from influences that would distract us.”
A star athlete, Craig, and a fellow teammate were being heavily recruited to play college football. Going to college and getting a degree, all while doing something you enjoy would be ideal for anyone working to change their circumstances. Craig was no different, but he had to look at the bigger picture.
“I wanted to go to college, but I needed to get out of Memphis. One weekend, a teammate and I were scheduled to be picked up for a college visit. We waited, and they never came. The entire weekend passed, they didn’t come, and no one called. We found out later the coach and the staff of the college’s program were fired,” Craig shares.
Feeling like the college option was closed to him, he did what a lot of young men do. He went to the military. “When the college tour fell through, I signed up for the Army as soon as I was able to. College was my first choice, but in the end, I had to get out of my neighborhood. I saw the military as the fast way to do that at the time.”
After four years in the Army, one spent in the Dessert Storm campaign, Craig came home with a purpose. “While in Dessert Storm, I prayed to God. I told him if he got us home safely, I would do whatever He told me to do! I had no idea of what that would be. I didn’t know if I would be a minister, a teacher, or a chef! It didn’t matter. If God got me out of the foxhole and home safely, I would dedicate my life to doing what he directed me to do,” He shares pointedly. “When I returned home, I kept my promise. I went with what I knew and what had worked for me and my brother as children. Sports.”
In 1996, Craig started the first youth sports program. “When I got out of the Army, God led me to start a youth organization. I gathered several of my high school buddies, and we started with twenty-five football players and five cheerleaders and started our youth football cheer program called Memphis Bears Inc.”
Craig returned home in 1991 and joined the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office in the jail division; later, he became a Memphis Police Officer. “Law enforcement felt like a natural progression for me but not for the reasons you may think,” Craig starts to explain. “I’ve always felt the call to help people. For that reason, I find myself drawn to the jobs and situations nobody wants to do.”
Growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Memphis, my role models were gang bangers and dope dealers.... I started this program thirty years ago to be a better role model than our kids see in the community every day.”
In the thirty years since starting their first sports program, Craig and his team have been strategic and hyper-focused on creating programs that benefit the youth and the community. Continuing to draw from his own childhood, Craig wanted to channel the group’s efforts toward mentorship. “Again, growing up without a father in the home, my mother tried to ensure my brother and I were exposed to good male role models. Whether it was our uncles, the pastor, or our coaches. She positioned us in a space where we had positive examples to help shape and mold us into the men we are today. Our coaches held us accountable and gave us goals. Those things kept us out of trouble. That is what we set out to do for the kids in our community. We wanted to give them good role models to emulate because that is what worked for us,” Craig explained.
Because of the overwhelming response to their initial project, new programs and initiatives Trezevant were started. “We started with the twenty-five football players and five cheerleaders, and we immediately saw the positive impact that it made in our community. As a result, the program grew. We started a track program, a summer program, and on the academic side, we have tutoring and homework assistance,” Littles shared with enthusiasm. “There was such a need; students and families were hungry for the opportunities our programs have brought to this community.”
In the years since Craig gathered a few high school buddies to honor his promise to God, they have not had a shortage of support from the community. “We have a strong volunteer base and partners who provide financial support. We have thirty staff members and over two hundred volunteers that span all programs. Our volunteers include the advisors, coaches, tutors, board members, and booster club.”
Because Memphis Shelby PAL is an independent non-profit, the program relies on financial support from sponsors and partners. “We have been so blessed to have so many people and companies who believe in us and what we are doing here,” Craig explains. “The programs that we create are not based on what I think is needed. We listen to the community and create programs based on their needs. Whether the need is nutrition, mentorship, or help with academics. We work to find a partner that helps us meet that need.” Craig shares. “If a parent says they need intervention for their child, we’ve partnered with the Ford Foundation and the juvenile court. In some cases, in lieu of being arrested, those students attend my training. There are a plethora of avenues that we can access to support our families at Littles or no cost to them.”
The success of the programs that MSC PAL has instituted has been evident in the students who graduate from it. “We have students who go on to complete college and trade school successfully. We have students who come back and volunteer, and we’ve had students come back and teach or join the police department in their community,” Craig said with pride. “That is why our program is so successful. We focus on
where the need is. For those reasons, the people of the community respect what we do, and we get to see the success stories that make this all worthwhile.”
If you haven’t caught on yet, Craig Littles loves his community and the people that live there. So, it was only fitting that the program be housed at his alma mater. “The best part is that we were able to host the program at our alma mater, Trezevant High School. That’s where it started for us. Now, thirty years later, we are still there and have been blessed to open an after-school program inside of the school. Trezevant High School and Memphis Shelby County Schools donated a wing inside of Trezevant. With a $300,000.000 renovation, Memphis Shelby County PAL was able to start after-school, summer, and extended learning programs,” Craig said proudly.
Over the years, Craig has been recognized for his labor of love. Craig has received numerous awards, such as the Meritorious Community Service Award by former Mayor W. W. Herenton, Outstanding Community Service by former Congressman Harold Ford Jr., River City Gala, Community Man of The Year, and Community Service Award, Memphis Police Department, just to name a few.
Staying true to his original vision to give kids in the North Memphis community something to emulate, make them proud of themselves, and stand a Littles taller, Craig’s current project is to give the local schools a stadium to hold their sports events.
“Right now, the schools must leave the area to participate in sporting events. They don’t have a place in their community built for them,” Craig explained. “The Field of Dreams Project is a state-of-the-art sports stadium where local schools can host sporting events and activities,” he shares passionately.
Giving Back Is How She Does BusinessBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Leatriece Franklin
Leatriece Franklin of Memphis, TN, is a multipreneur. She is the owner of both LF Mobile LifeSaving Courses and The Skrub Kafe Network. With LF Mobile LifeSaving Courses, she provides basic to advanced CPR Training to individuals and groups as early as nine years old. She also offers custom first aid kits and the children’s book series The Adventures of Captain LifeSaver and Kid Shock. With The Skrub Kafe Network, Leatriece offers high-quality scrub uniform styles and accessories, a spacious networking area, and LF Mobile LifeSaving Courses.
Leatriece is a native of Memphis and grew up in Raleigh and graduated from Raleigh Egypt High School. She is a mom of one son, Thomas. Since 1997, she has worked as a nurse. Additionally, she is a Retired Army Captain of 22 years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, a Master’s Degree in Nursing (concentration in Leadership and Management), and a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Management.
Leatriece shares that her journey in business aligns with her career of serving in the military. “While in the Army, a Military Training Network certification through the American Heart Association was required to provide Basic Life Support training to EMT-B and EMT-B Recert students. As I trained people for the military, more people started reaching out for training on the civilian side. So in June 2016, LF Mobile LifeSaving Courses was born,” she says.
In 2018 LF Mobile LifeSaving Courses was designated as an official training site for the American Heart Association. In 2022, Leatriece published her first book in the series, The Adventures of Captain LifeSaver and Kid Shock. Her goal was to get LifeSaving concepts in front of children at an early age. “CPR can double to triple a cardiac arrest victim’s survival,” she says. Fast forward to 2023, LF Mobile LifeSaving Courses has trained and certified thousands of LifeSavers.
With The Skrub Kafe Network, Leatriece says she got tired of talking about what she wanted to do. “Sometimes you have to stop and check yourself and just try,” she says. “My lease with my CPR Training space was ending, and I thought it was the perfect time to acquire a space large enough to conduct CPR Training and provide scrub uniforms in one place. So, in August 2021, The Skrub Kafe Network was created.”
Her location is sectioned into three parts. There is one for scrub uniforms and another section for networking and seating. The third section is designated for CPR Training. The Skrub Kafe Network’s official opening happened on July 23, 2022. Leatriece says, “It was beautiful.”
The vision for both businesses, Leatriece says, came from a need. “The need to offer cost-effective and location-friendly training to all sorts of people, not just Healthcare Providers.” The community of Raleigh was chosen due to being an area of need. “There are no scrub uniform stores or CPR Training sites in Raleigh. It was also a goal for me to open up shop in Raleigh as a means of giving back,” she shared.
Leatriece says what she loves most about her businesses are the opportunities she has to meet amazing people, whether in class or during a sales transaction. “I love providing my amazing clients with the skills necessary to save a life and providing them with scrub uniforms at a competitive rate.”
While her journey continues to prove itself as a learning experience, Leatriece credits her family and friends with having a significant impact on her life and career. “The military and nursing have prepared me with thick skin. I can handle anything thrown my way. My mom was a nurse and retired after working for 32 years at the V.A. Hospital in Memphis. Her work ethic showed me you can do anything you put your mind to. My brother was in the Navy, and my sister was in the Air Force.”
Besides being faced with the challenge of having adequate capital to grow her business, Leatriece shares that marketing and staffing is just as important. She has addressed both by utilizing social media, word of mouth, texting, emailing, and more. “It’s hard, but if you want to be successful, you must keep going. I do what I can when I can, and I do more when I can. As a nurse, I’ve seen the horrible staffing market, and it’s no different for reliable retail associates.”
For those who may follow in her footsteps, Leatriece advises them to be determined and prepared. “Become as educated as you can in your field. Also, find a mentor or someone who will pour into you. It’s enough opportunity out there for everyone. Your path will be individualized for you, and things will happen when you want them to. It might not be when you want it to happen, but I’ll be right on time.”
As her future unravels, Leatriece plans to continue providing services in Memphis and hopefully nationwide. By the looks of what she has done thus far, Leatriece’s brands are here to stay.
Please visit their website to learn more about LF Mobile LifeSaving Courses and The Skrub Kafe.
Antonio & Tonya Tolson AJ and The Cool Kids
We are honored to share the story of AJ and the Cool Kids, a nonprofit organizatioin led by Tonya and Antonio Tolson.
Tonya Tolson: How did your journey begin?
Our autism journey began when our son AJ was 12 months old. He was not meeting milestones on his Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3) test that children take at the pediatrician for monthly checkups. Until then, he was hitting all milestones, and I was relieved because, after several miscarriages, we finally had our rainbow baby. We soon found that he was not speaking. I contacted my local Child development office, CDSA, in Charlotte, NC. He was found to be Level I/II autistic. I literally could not believe that there was a problem with my beautiful blessing.
With the proper diagnosis at 18 months, our son started receiving free services through the CDSA department. I soon realized he would age out at three, and I would have to provide services at cost or enroll him in a Pre-K program in which I knew he would not be successful. It was then I decided I would become my child’s best advocate, provide the services privately, and pay out of pocket. With hard work and determination, our child went from being nonverbal to doing math in a traditional public school. This is partly due to our village and community of autistic families. We want to ensure other families have the same access to our child’s services. This foundation was created to educate and alleviate the stress of the diagnosis and life thereafter.
What does the team of your organization consist of?
My husband is the founder, and I am the director, but we have a staff that consists of a Public Relations Director, Asha Ellison, and our events team, Arletha McClelland and Kelly Mosley. With these people in place, we can serve families in the autistic community across the United States. I serve the entire autism population, from one-yearolds to adults. People tend to forget that autistic children become autistic adults, and they go underserved because of that fact.
Where do you and Antonio draw inspiration from?
Our first inspiration came from our son. The strides he’s made from diagnosis through today are not only an inspiration to our family but to many families like ours who hope for new milestones with their children. We are also inspired by the families we have touched with our social media posts and stories. I have encountered several families that are right where we started or who can relate to what we are doing for this community. It is not just the parents we have a direct impact on, it is all communities. In general, everyone’s lives have been touched by someone with autism.
Your story is so amazing. What do you love most about what you do?
We love the lives that we are affecting. We also love how we can educate others external to this community. We have learned so much as an autism family, and we love the connections we’ve made on many different levels. This is what drives us. We want to ensure everyone knows that autism is not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. We have seen everything from high functioning to severe autism and learned a lot about the in-between. The love we have for our son and this community keeps us pushing forward in our work to spread education and awareness.
How has your program been received in your community?
We have received some great feedback regarding how our organization has grown. We have gone from helping one family in our first year to helping several this year. We have been told we are doing a fantastic job sharing our experiences. It allows parents and caregivers in the community not to shy away from what is going on with them. They see it is normal to have a child on the spectrum and that you can feel comfortable speaking about the good, bad, and the ugly side of autism. Yes, it is called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but it doesn’t mean your life has to be dysfunctional. We are here to help autism families navigate all those parts. A parent specifically told us that “we see her” and understand what she is experiencing. That’s made all the difference in what we are trying to achieve through this organization.
Your calling sounds like it can be challenging. How are you managing them?
Some of the challenges were getting our name out in the community and actually having people attend our educational sessions. We loved the gala celebration in August, but we want the community to be more informed about what is going on with autism. We also needed some help securing sponsorships and grants because of how new of an organization we are. We will get the sponsorships and grants needed to serve this community. The work that we do requires a certain amount of funding that we were providing from our personal funds. Through the news media and the gala this year, we secured a little more funding and help, but we still have a long way to go. I know we will be blessed to get everything we need to help make the loads lighter for autism families in the community.
What is next for AJ and The Cool Kids?
We are presenting several educational sessions online and in the Charlotte community to make others aware of what the autism community needs. We also want to partner with several businesses and organizations to make sure that they know what autism looks like. In the last year, I have seen many local organizations, businesses, and the arts cater to the autism community. We want to make them aware that they live and exist among us, and we need to know the varying needs of this community. We also want to grow into serving more families’ financial needs. Autism has a high cost medically and can take a toll on families emotionally and physically. We want to be a resource to those families and help them in any way possible. h
Ashton HairstonThe son of Shannon Hairston
Fostering Great IdeasBy Terry L. Watson Photos Provided by Latece Logan
Greenville, SC, native and resident Latece Logan doesn’t appear to have issues standing out front. She proudly holds the title of North Greenville College’s first African American Homecoming Queen. Latece also performed in the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, GA. Today, she is the Director of Fostering Great Ideas Life Support Mentoring Relationships Program, which focuses on helping youth who are in foster care. These individuals often lack consistent relationships and may struggle academically, developmentally, and relationally. “High-quality relationships are the foundation for all other learning,” Latece shares. In her role, she oversees over 100 mentor relationships between highly qualified mentors and youth in foster care. She is also enrolled at the Life Purpose Institute out of San Diego, CA, studying to become a certified Life Coach.
Fostering Great Ideas Life Support Mentoring Program is the largest mentor program for youth in foster care in the southeast. Additionally, Latece serves as a Transitional Coach at Legacy Early College and mentors senior scholars as they transition from high school to college. Most recently, Latece was promoted to Fostering Great Ideas Chief Culture Officer, an executive leadership position responsible for fostering an inclusive, collaborative, and engaging organizational culture that aligns with FGI’s mission and values. She is also responsible for leading cultural initiatives, supporting staff development, and implementing programs that enhance the overall organizational environment.
“Through the work of the dedicated team at Fostering Great Ideas, healing is possible and success is attainable,” Latece says. “Fostering Great Ideas is a charity to support children and youth by offering each youth ages 14 and up with a mentor through its Life Support Program. They also offer a Tutor Match Program for school-age youth in foster care. Older youth can join their Aspire program, which provides a certified life coach to help transition from high school to college and beyond. Another program, It’s All Relative, offers supportive training for family members when children are removed from their homes. To ensure that siblings who are separated from their brothers and sisters have regularly scheduled visits with each other, they’ve developed the Sib-Link Program. “When we say family, we mean parents as well. Our Mom’s Matter program is a service that offers training and support while encouraging moms to reach their reunification goals,” Latece says.
Fostering Great Ideas is also big on community connections and education through its Care2Foster program, which supports current foster families and recruits new ones. They also advocate for youth in foster care and help amplify their voices through their Speak Up Program. Lastly, they offer an interactive role-play workshop called Life in Limbo, that gives a perspective of what the experience is like for those in foster care.
I did not get where I am today because of my education. I got where I am today because I’m operating in my gift, and it has made room for me.”
Latece’s journey at FGI began in 2015. After her friend, Ava Smith, the owner of Flatfee Recruiting, submitted Latece’s resume to David White, CEO of Fostering Great Ideas, she was hired for an entry-level position. In eight short years, she earned the executive leadership position as the CCO, and she’s not finished, as her story is still being written.
Inspiring people to be their best selves Latece says, is what drives her. “I love God, and I love God’s people. He is my source and my strength and it is through Him I live and have my being. His love for me has compelled me to treat people how I would like to be treated, and I want to demonstrate His love everywhere I go through words of encouragement, affirmation, and simple acts of kindness.” Even more, helping others is something she loves to do, unconditionally. She adds, “With FGI, I have the ability to express who I truly am. Proverbs 18:16 says, “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men”. I did not get where I am today because of my education. I got where I am today because I’m operating in my gift, and it has made room for me. Empowering people to thrive and support them as they help others do the same gives me life!”
Latece also acknowledges the impact her mother had on her life. “My mother was a beautiful woman. She was wise as a serpent yet gentle as a dove. She passed away in 1999, yet the love she carried in her heart for her family is why I love as hard as I do. I want to be just like her; someone who is loved and adored, not because of my accomplishments, but because of how I treat people and love God.”
Latece has enjoyed her journey and shares there isn’t much she would change about how things have happened. “If I could change anything about my journey with our organization, It would be to push to go statewide sooner because too many children are still waiting to feel the support and love that Fostering Great Ideas offers. It takes funding from individual donors, corporations, and grants, and we need to push harder for these children daily.”
As the future unfolds for Latece, her purpose will be the same. She says, “On a professional note, I will strive to enable Fostering Great Ideas to be known as a one-stop shop for the needs of youth in foster care and will equip our volunteers and staff to do just that. Personally, I plan to continue to educate myself on building leaders to empower youth and families to live life out loud and unapologetically. Soon, I will be a certified life coach and own a Performance Coach Practice to help people perform in whatever capacity they desire.”
Latece has been married to Bud Logan for 24 years, and they have two accomplished daughters, Shekinah Ellis and LaChara Logan. She also has a bonus son, JaQuan Logan, and grandson, Landon Logan. Latece is also under the Worship & Arts Pastor, Jessica Duckett, of the Divine Worship Center Praise Team.
Please visit their website to learn more about Latece Logan and Fostering Great Ideas Life Support Mentoring Relationships Program.